Kevin Bacon illegally dances in the 1984 film, “Footloose.” (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
ST. GEORGE, UT — A Halloween-themed private event was targeted by police when there was a suspicion of dancing without a permit.
It happened at the 2014 “Monster Mash” dance party, the third annual event of its kind. It was put on by the event promotion company, Heart of Dixie, and held at the Fiesta Fun Center in St. George, Utah (population 75,000).
Over 400 guests were enjoying the festivities at the October 31st event, participating in all-night enjoyment of bumper boats, go-karts, mini golf, and music.
After 9:30 p.m., St. George police arrived in force to investigate a case of unpermitted dancing. Around 5-6 officers challenged the organizers of the event as not having obtained a proper permit to host the dancing. The venue owner, event promoter, and security coordinator each presented their respective permits, which had been previously approved and issued by the city.
“I told them, ‘Well, I actually have a permit that was issued by the city this morning that has ‘dance’ and ‘fun’ checked on it, and a big stamp of approval on it,’” Heart of Dixie promoter Jared Keddington said.
Police found the city-issued permits to be insufficient, and forced the organizers to announce over the loudspeaker that absolutely no dancing could be tolerated for the remainder of the night, as per the orders of police.
“It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Brett Crockett, owner of Fiesta Fun Center, according to St. George News.
Disappointed party-goers clamored for refunds as the police officers stood guard over the party with video cameras to record violations of the city ordinance.
Heart of Dixie issued the following statement to St. George News, explaining the event:
The city issued a permit. We applied for a special event permit for a “dance”. It was issued. Then when they had no way to shut it down they produced additional pages to the permit that we were not given on which they had hand written that the dance was not allowed. Not to mention we were on private property, it is a first amendment right to dance, we weren’t playing music loud enough to be heard off the property and when the police were there NO ONE was dancing. They sent 6 officers to make sure no one was dancing! DANCING IS NOT A CRIME.
Unsympathetic city officials, including assistant city manager Marc Mortensen, defended the police action, claiming that the party organizers had not followed through with the exact requirements of the permit application process.
Mortensen said, “Via the power of social media, who knows how many could have showed up and would that have overburdened that particular neighborhood and could it have potentially created problems… That’s what we try and avoid.”
Supporters have aptly compared the situation to the 1984 film “Footloose,” which depicted a fictional town which banned dancing.
The City of St. George insists that dancing is not explicitly banned, but people must seek city permission to dance at private events held for profit, and such permission must be sought in a prescribed manner at in a prescribed amount of time.
The ruined Halloween party serves as a glaring example of the outrageous nature of requiring permits for private affairs held on private property. When citizens are forced to ask the government for permission to run a business, to freely associate with other individuals, or to dance on private property, there is no limit to the number of comical injustices that can take place.
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